“Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.”
Adolph Hitler’s first official act as Chancellor of Germany was to outlaw trade unions, collective bargaining and the right to strike.
Mussolini and Hitler gave fascism a bad image. They were dictators who took power by duping the public into believing in their trumped-up claims of nationalistic fervor. In fact, they were far less interested in the vitality of their countries or their countries’ corporations than they were about their own place in history. They were megalomaniacs who wrapped themselves in fascism to further their own goals.
Real fascism is far less interested in, or dependent upon, a singular political leader, and it would not be necessary, might even be counter-productive, to have a megalomaniacal dictator supporting it.
Fascism can exist in a nominal democracy, so long as the rules of the democracy prohibit any real power from residing in the masses. In a fascist state, all power rests with the owners of the capital, which, currently, are the mega-corporations of the modern nation state. These entities owe their existence to the laws that a country adopts regarding the commerce engaged in within its borders.
If a country highly regulates and heavily taxes those who engage in business activities, the ability of those entities to become powerful is limited. Business owners in such countries can still achieve relative individual wealth (depending on the nature of the goods they sell and the competition they face), but they will not gain the kind of power that will limit the opposing power of the non-business owners in the country.
But if a country doesn’t regulate business owners or tax their profits, the business entities they own will be able to grow in size and power. The power that results can then direct future government action to the needs of the business owners, rather than the living, breathing citizens of the country.
The result, over time, will be the diminution of truly democratic systems in favor of business control. And in the modern world of business, the corporate structure is the model for business ownership, providing as it does, both immunity from individual liability and the absence of anything remotely akin to a conscience or a human soul.
If the foregoing description is too theoretical, consider the following facts: Since 1980, U.S. corporations have had far more friendly federal governments than ever before (at least since the trust busting era of Teddy Roosevelt’s administration). At the same time, the power of unions (one of the principal checks on corporate hegemony outside of direct government involvement) has decreased significantly (beginning with Ronald Reagan’s union busting move against the air traffic controllers early in his administration and now with the anti-collective bargaining legislation recently passed in Wisconsin and under consideration in a number of other Republican dominated states).
In that same time frame (the last thirty years), corporate wealth has multiplied dramatically. The owners and chief executives of the nation’s largest mega-corporations have become obscenely wealthy while the once vaunted American middle class has struggled to stay afloat. To be specific, the wealthiest one percent of the nation’s residents owns 95 percent of the nation’s wealth.
Remember “trickle-down economics”? It carried Ronald Reagan to victory in 1980, but it turned out that Reagan’s running-mate, George H. W. Bush, was right when, in a primary debate, he called it “voodoo economics.” Has anyone with a middle-class income felt the trickle? Not in terms of real dollars. Yes, many American families have more income now than they did in 1980, but only because both spouses are now working and only when inflation is not included in the measurement.
Here are some of the indicators of a country’s drift to fascism:
o Your country’s Supreme Court declares that corporations have the same rights as regular people when it comes to political speech. Those corporations are then allowed to spend whatever money they want to push whatever political agenda best suits their purposes. Often that political message is presented in the guise of “freedom” from government interference, as if the freedom thus realized inures to the benefit of the people.
o Unions lose the right to collectively bargain, thereby defusing their most potent weapon against corporate wealth and power.
o The financial markets (stock markets) soar (with top executives becoming billionaires) in spite of devastatingly high unemployment numbers.
o The largest corporations in the country pay absolutely (or almost) no taxes and yet still clamor for even lower tax rates.
o The financial industry demands more deregulation even after it causes the country to come to the brink of a financial meltdown, and it gets much of what it wants from its government.
o Energy companies (those producing oil, coal and related industries) cause environmental and health crises and then claim that they are overly regulated. Insurance companies call attempts to regulate their practices socialistic.
o Popular media outlets carry the message that any attempts to rein in corporate wealth and power are socialistic and anti-American.
o The right to vote is curtailed and restricted in a variety of subtle ways (no same day registration, limited vote-by-mail opportunities, challenges to anyone who may “appear to be” an illegal voter, and claims of fraud filed against true “get-out-the-vote” entities who are trying to increase vote totals for anti-corporate interests and candidates).
o The essence of political debate is constantly shifting towards the interests of corporations (with the pendulum always moving to the right, seemingly imperceptibly, but inexorably).
o The middle class is shrinking and the number of working poor and unemployed poor is steadily growing, all while the rich are getting ever richer.
o Taxes are never raised on the wealthy and are often lowered significantly for them, while taxes for the middle class are only marginally reduced.
o Public services are becoming less reliable, if they are provided at all, as local government revenues are often inadequate to provide them.
If these indicators sound familiar, your country is drifting towards fascism.
Fascism doesn’t require a dictator. An unaware public will do just fine.